Note: originally posted Wednesday, 23 April 2014 on gavofyork's blog Insights into a Modern World.

Less-techy: What is Web 3.0?

Even prior to Edward Snowden's revelations, we had realised that entrusting our information to arbitrary entities on the internet was fraught with danger. However, post-Snowden we can plainly see that large organisations and governments routinely attempt to stretch and overstep their authority. Thus we realise that entrusting our information to organisations in general is a fundamentally broken model. The chance of an organisation not meddling with our data is merely the effort required minus their expected gains. Given they tend to have an income model that requires they know as much about people as possible the realist will realise that the potential for convert misuse is difficult to overestimate.

The protocols and technologies on the Web, and even at large the Internet, served as a great technology preview. They each helped contribute to the sort of rich cloud-based applications we see today such as Google's Drive, Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the countless other applications ranging through games, shopping, banking and dating. However, going into the future, much of the core technology will have to be re-engineered according to our new understandings of the interaction between society and technology.

Web 3.0, or as might be termed the "post-Snowden" web, is a reimagination of the sorts of things that we already use the Web for, but with a fundamentally different model for the interactions between parties. Information that we assume to be public, we publish. Information that we assume to be agreed, we place on a consensus-ledger. Information that we assume to be private, we keep secret and never reveal. Communication always takes place over encrypted channels and only with pseudonymous identities as endpoints; never with anything traceable (such as IP addresses). In short, we engineer the system to mathematically enforce our prior assumptions, since no government or organisation can reasonably be trusted.

There are four components to the post-Snowden Web: static content publication, dynamic messages, trustless transactions and an integrated user-interface. These are each designed to replace some aspect of the Web experience we currently take for granted, but to do so in a fully decentralised and pseudonymous manner.

The first, we already have much of: a decentralised, encrypted information publication system. Two systems that already implementation much of what is necessary exist: Freenet and BitTorrent. This part of the system allows an individual to publish the parts of their website (or ĐApp, to use the new terminology) that are large and/or unchanging. Images, page templates, large portions of text and program code would fall under this umbrella. This information would take an address, with which any other individual would be able to download it.

Within Web 3.0, we are able, just as with Bit Torrent, to incentivise others to maintain and share this information, however we can make this more efficient and precise. Because an incentivisation framework is intrinsic to the protocol, we become (at this level, anyway) DDoS-proof by design. How's that for a bonus?

The second portion of Web 3.0 is a messaging and publication system for transient information. This is used for communicating, either privately between two individuals, or from one individual to all others, "broadcasting".

As a communication system, it is, in principle, similar to the Internet itself. However, it has two key differences; firstly that the messages, if private, are always encrypted; thus no eavesdropper can determine what is being said between individuals. Secondly, the physical location of the end-points of the messages is cleverly hidden, and thus an eavesdropper cannot even collect the infamous "metadata": information that security services consider at once so useless to not be considered 'private', but yet so useful to spend billions in infrastructure to collect.

In Web 3.0 this portion allows individuals to communicate both securely nd privately, to give each other updates and to publish information in real-time, where the precedence of the messages needs not be intrinsically trusted or later referred: you cannot trust any of the messages to be "true", only that they came from the identity that they purport to have come from.

The third portion of Web 3.0 is the consensus engine. A consensus engine is a means of agreeing some rules of interaction, in the knowledge that future interactions (or lack thereof) will automatically and irrevocably result in the enforcement exactly as specified. It is effectively an all-encompassing social-contract and draws its strength from the network effect of consensus.

The fact that the effects of a renege of one agreement may be felt in all others is key to creating a strong social contract and thus making reducing the changes of renege or wilful ignorance. For example, the more a reputation system is isolated from a more personal social interaction system, the less effective the reputation system will be. A reputation system combined with Facebook or Twitter like functionality would work better than one without, since users place an intrinsic value on what their friends, partners or colleagues think of them. A particularly poignant example of this is the difficult question of whether, and when, to befriend on Facebook an employer or dating partner.

Consensus engines will be used for all trustful publication and alteration of information. This will happen through a completely generalised global transaction processing system the first workable example of which is the Ethereum project.

The traditional web does not fundamentally address consensus, instead falling back on centralised trust of authorities, such as ICANN, Verisign and Facebook, and reducing to private and government websites together with the software upon which they are built.

The fourth and final component to the Web 3.0 experience is the technology that brings this all together; the 'browser' and user interface. Funnily enough, this will look fairly similar to the browser interface we already know and love. There will be the URI bar, the back button and of course, the lions share will be given over to the display of the ĐApp (né webpage or website).

There will be a few superficial differences; we'll see a move away from the traditional client-server URL model of addresses like "https://address/path", and instead start to see new-form addresses such as "goldcoin" and "uk.gov". Name resolution will be carried out by a consensus-engine-based contract and can trivially be redirected or augmented by the user. Periods would allow multiple levels of name resolution - "uk.gov", for example, might pass the "gov" subname into the name resolver given by "uk".

Due to the ever-transient nature of the information made available to the browser automatically and accidentally through the update of the consensus back-end and the maintenance of the peer network, we'll see background-ĐApps or ĐApplets play a great role in our Web 3.0 experience. Either through always-visible Mac OS dock-like dynamic iconic infographics or dashboard style dynamic ĐApplets, we'll be kept accidentally up to date about that which we care.

After the initial synchronisation process, page-loading times will reduce to zero as the static data is pre-downloaded and guaranteed up to date and the dynamic data (delivered through the consensus-engine or p2p-messaging-engine) are also maintained up to date. While being synchronised, the user-experience will be perfectly solid though actual information shown may be out of date (though may easily not, and can be annotated as such).

As a user of Web 3.0, all interactions will be carried out pseudonymously, securely and for many services, trustlessly. Those that require third party(-ies), the tools will give the users and ĐApp-developers the ability to spread the trust among multiple different, possibly competing, entities, massively reducing the amount of trust one must place in the hands of any given single entity.

The changeover will be gradual, on Web 2.0, we'll increasingly see sites whose back-ends utilise Web 3.0-like components such as Bitcoin, BitTorrent, NameCoin. This trend will continue and the truly Web-3.0 platform Ethereum will likely be used by sites that wish to provide transactional evidence of their content e.g. voting sites and exchanges. Of course, a system is only as secure as the weakest link and so eventually such sites will transition themselves onto a Web 3.0 browser which can provide end-to-end security and trustless interaction.

Say 'hello' to Web 3.0, a Secure Social Operating System.

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